In D.C., Black people have received 31% of vaccinations, while making up 55% of cases, 70% of deaths and 46% of the population (Source: https://www.kff.org). This is attributed to both vaccine hesitancy and vaccine disparities. Dr. Theodore Watkins Sr., a graduate of Howard Medical School and host of To Your Health, a holistic health program on WPFW 89.3FM for nearly 30 years, shared his thoughts on vaccinations in the Black community.
What medicine do you practice?
Theodore Watkins: I am trained in general surgery. I’m still licensed but since 1983, almost 40 years now, I’ve practiced “wholistic,” nutritional-based medicine – “whole-listic” because I look at the “whole” body.
Why practice natural medicine?
TW: Because it works. First, you look at the whole person. Mental and emotional well-being is an important component. Stress is a key component. If you don’t deal with the stress you won’t get well. Second, exercise boosts the immune system. Just being out in nature helps. Lastly, diet matters. Masks and social distancing work but what you put in your body matters.
So you’re a holistic doctor recommending the COVID-19 vaccine?
TW: I’m generally against vaccines. I don’t take the flu or shingles vaccines. Vaccinations have become a business. I’m in favor of the COVID-19 vaccine because the virus kills. The vaccine doesn’t. Everyone knows someone who’s died of COVID-19.
Can you address vaccine hesitancy following the J&J pause?
TW: Let’s take a step back. Seven-in-7 million people isn’t that many. I took the J&J vaccine and would take it again tomorrow if I could. Data shows that it’s a safe vaccine. All medications have a side effect. The good outweighs the bad by miles.
What about hesitation due to variants/mutations?
TW: One of the best ways to stop the mutations is to get vaccinated. It appears that the vaccines are effective against most of the mutations. I recently interviewed a pediatrician looking at COVID-19 in children. Surprisingly, I found out children were getting the virus at the same rate as adults without getting sick. But with these new variants, they’re getting sick and dying at higher rates. We need to get the vaccine to stop the variants.
Do you recommend a specific vaccine?
TW: No, there’s not much difference. I took the J&J and was happy to take one shot. My family took Pfizer and Moderna. Even those who have underlying issues took the vaccine and were fine with no serious side effects. Some had exhaustion and one had a headache but a nap cured all of that. People ask my advice because they know I’m against vaccines. But I’m more for living than I am against vaccines. Although herbs and supplements strengthen your immune system, they can’t guarantee you won’t contract COVID-19, especially compared to the vaccine. I took the vaccine so that I can do everything I can to prevent getting sick or getting my grandkids sick.
Any final words?
TW: We need to really get serious. Black people are dying more than anyone else. There were rumors before that we couldn’t get COVID-19. Not only do we get it but we’re dying at an alarming and disproportionate rate. They’re not trying to kill us. This time they’re trying to keep their friends alive and we’re helping them do that.
The Black Coalition Against COVID is a community-focused group organized specifically to help uplift and save lives during the COVID-19 pandemic. For more information, go to https://blackcoalitionagainstcovid.org, https://www.facebook.com/BCAC19 or Instagram and Twitter @bcagainstcovid. Contributed by Natasha Joseph, a doctoral student at Howard University studying development and public policy who is currently serving as an intern for BCAC assisting with media and publications.